Officer in charge tells hotels inquiry that police were ‘not required’

The police officer in charge of the force's response to hotel quarantine in Victoria says a 24/7 police presence would have been an inefficient use of resources.

Commander Tim Tully lead Operation Soteria, the taskforce set up to respond to the quarantining of international arrivals in hotels in Victoria.

Tim Tully, Victoria Police Commander, appears at the inquiry into hotel quarantine on Friday.

Mr Tully told the ongoing inquiry into the program that a police presence inside the hotels was not required.

"My view at the time was certainly that it was not required, it would have been an inefficient use of resources," he said.

The lack of police presence in hotel quarantine has been a sticking point in the inquiry.

Some security companies who provided guards said having police in charge would have improved the program while a Health Department authorised officer told the inquiry on Friday that police responded so quickly to emergency calls anyway that it would not have made a difference.

The inquiry is investigating the quarantine program because outbreaks among a hotel worker and security guards at two hotels spread into the community and drove Victoria's second wave of COVID-19.

Mr Tully accepted police would have made a difference given there would be more resources on site, but he didn't see significant incidents occur inside the hotels or increased risk from the use of security guards that would have made a 24-hour-a day police presence necessary.

"This was at a time when police were required not only to undertake their normal role in protecting the community, but in unprecedented circumstances with the pandemic," Mr Tully said.

There was "competing demand for very finite police resources," he said.

"I mean, it goes without saying that in any operational environment the more resources that we have, they are certainly going to make a difference. It probably becomes a question of the efficient use of police resources in this circumstance."

The inquiry heard Mr Tully was informed a decision had been made that police would provide a support role for private security before the program started on March 29.

No one was named as the decision-maker in the inquiry but Mr Tully said it did not come from one of the police officers he reported to.

Mr Tully said in the two days before the program began, the force's role morphed from maintaining a presence during the transition of passengers from the airport, supporting private security in patrols of hotels and responding to requests for police assistance.

Over the 109 days of hotel quarantine, which ran from March 29 until mid-July, there were 131 calls for police assistance, he said.

Only five of them were deemed priority one, or serious calls and two related to the same incident, he said.

"There was a very low number of significant locations," he said.

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